For ages I have been rambling on about my skepticism about social media agencies.

I thought that I might have a go at demonstrating my point, which in a nutshell is the following:

Proper social media strategy = a good idea + a few quid. That’s it.

We decided to prove it, so we sat down and set ourselves the following brief:

“With our brains and no more than £25 create a couple of ideas that will (a) spread like wildfire on social media, (b) add value to our social communities, (c) build a better understanding of what Houston PR does, (d) generate some new business leads, (e) deliver some assets that we can make good use of over time, (f) generate media coverage for the ideas that will drive further social engagement.”

Here’s what we did:

STEP 1 – Tuesday last week

We bought a domain name, www.polifiller.com. Using some code that we had developed for our PR buzzword removal tool a few years ago, we developed a simple online tool that cuts tired old phrases out of politicians’ speeches.

STEP 2 – Wednesday

We wrote out to political correspondents and editors announcing the tool and giving examples. We also invited them to submit their own phrases.

STEP 3 – later on Wednesday

The Today Programme, the Daily Politics, BBC World Service and Pienaar’s Politics (5 Live) invited me on to discuss Polifiller and why we’d done it.

STEP 4 – Thursday

Here’s a link to my interview with John Humphreys. Traffic to the site (and ours) rocketed. Lots of social media chatter about it.

STEP 6 – Monday this week. We still have £12.50 from our £25 budget left. What else can we do? We decide to buy the domain name, www.pretweet.co.uk.

The new site, built with the same code, will hack annoying terms out of tweets.

STEP 7 – We consult 500 of our Facebook and Twitter friends and ask them for the phrases that annoy them the most. The long list includes the following: “all the cheese”, “all the meat”, “asking for a friend”, “amazeballs”, “awesome”, “awks”, “bantz”, “best. boyfriend. ever.”, “best. girlfriend. ever.”, “broken the internet”, “BWAHAHAHAHA”, “cannot unsee”, “cheeky kfc”, “epic fail”, “epic win”, “haterz”, “hilaire”, “hivemind”, “holibobs”, “humblebrag”, “i am in you”, “if you read just one thing today”, “interwebs”, “is a must read”, “it’s for a thing”, “just saying”, “kitteh”, “klaxon”, “kthxbai”, “more sleeps”, “nom nom nom”, “nom o’clock”, “noms”, “not even sorry”, “obvs”, “o hai”, “o rly”, “omg”, “omfg”, “on route”, “proper ledge”, “random”, “rant over”, “right in the feels”, “rofl”, “roflcopter”, “sadface”, “said noone ever”, “seems legit”, “send coffee”, “so jokes”, “so much win”, “so thanks for that”, “so that’s a thing”, “so that happened”, “stay classy”, “super excited”, “teh interweb”, “teh internets”, “teh internetz”, “that awkward moment when”, “that embarrassing moment when”, “total ledge”, “totes amaze”, “totes”, “tru dat”, “tweeps”, “tweet-up”, “twittersphere”, “u ok hun”, “what the actual”, “whoop”, “winning”, “wins the internet”, “woe”, “won the internet”, “wow. just wow.”, “yay” and “zomg”.

STEP 8 – Yesterday. The site is live, so we announce it. The Independent and Metro report it, reference us and include links to the site. We phase the announcement and send it to both our proprietary UK and US media and influencer lists. The story gets picked up by some of the key marketing blogs in the US. Traffic to the new site goes through the roof, as does traffic to our site. There are countless tweets and retweets of the link and we are now planning our next move.

STEP 9 – The story gets a mention on BBC Breakfast this morning.

Results:

We have more analysis to do, but here’s what we can say so far….

Traffic to our site has been up 5-fold on average.

Traffic to the new sites has rocketed.

Goodwill engendered by the services meant that we got brand mentions on all BBC output (remarkable for a PR agency)

Combined eyeballs and eardrums: in excess of 10 million.

All of this for a bit of brain time and £25.

My point: as the medium becomes increasingly simple, the investment should be in the message. If you are spending money on social media consultancy, make sure that your money is not going on measuring a morsel. Your brand deserves more than that. One grain of rice can be measured in ways that we could scarcely have believed twenty years ago. And yet it remains one grain of rice. Message first, medium second.

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